Born to be Mild

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Flag of Nepal  , Central Region,
Tuesday, November 22, 2011

So we decided to rent a couple of Enfields. Eagle Exports agreed to help us to find them saying it would be no problem and only cost about 400 rupies. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We had breakfast at our hotel today. After yesterdays frequent food related fiascos we imagined that no matter what we ordered we'd probably be served an octopus and a candle and the former would be more likely to be on fire. Not so at all. I ordered the Mexican breakfast, Marcin ordered the Fruit lovers breakfast which was a pile of fried food with a glass of juice. It was very cheap and when mine came it was impressive. It tasted good too and Marcin grumbled because mine was bigger.

I had no luck last night finding a bike so Marcin found a place online and mailed it. This morning he got a reply saying that there was only one left. I just went to the local place to arrange to rent a Chinese bike. Suddenly the price had jumped to 2000 rupies. I haggled it down to 1000, around 8 and we did the paperwork. Then, he found a problem. The chain was knackered and needed replacing. He offered me other bikes but they were all tiny and I’m not so I went elsewhere looking for one. In the end the chances of getting an Enfield were between slim and none so I went back and annoyed the dealer about fixing the VR and getting it out to me as arranged. One rental place dealt with our inquiry in typically Nepalese style. He told us he had many Enfields waiting to rent right there, right now. We asked him to show us them as he only had two broken Hondas in the showroom and he then phoned someone and said he didn’t have them. The rental place agreed to have the bike fixed within half an hour. Marcin moaned and moaned. Then someone pulled up on an Enfield and Marcin somehow arranged to rent it from him. The VR was now ready and it was just quicker and easier to take that. I paid for 5 litres of petrol and we left. Marcin stopped to fill up, I checked and sure enough there was no petrol in my bike. I put some in and we headed out. After a few false starts we were on our way into the mountains. The roads climbed through a village to a wooded canopy overlooking threadbare and unrepaired roads made of sand and gravel with threads of tarmac running along the middle in places. There was no side protection, just sheer drops into the scenery. The scenery though was spectacular. The bikes were not.

Mine had no speedo and the brakes were just barely functional. That didn’t matter as the 150cc engine generated less power than a lawn mower and 30mph was pushing our luck. The Enfield was heavy and slightly difficult but sounded very nice and looked the part. It could only manage around 30mph as well. We didn’t care, it was actually a welcome change after the mad dash across country to ride something slower than a refund cheque from the inland revenue.

We climbed into the countryside and the scenery just got better and better. The mountains are softer here, green and inviting. The people have cut grooves into the sides, i’m not sure why but I guess it’s something to do with being able to farm it easier. In any case it looks amazing, it has a unique style I’ve not seen anywhere else and is very striking. Even more so because there are no heavy machines here, this was done by hand with light tools. There is none of the stark baroness of Switzerland where the mountains are foreboding and life is permitted to exist on certain conditions, here the people have become a function of the environment. They live off the land and in closer harmony with it. It’s certainly a simpler way of life. There is nothing much here to buy and nothing much to want. There were small pockets of communities as we went along, tiny villages where a few hundred people lived.

The roads got worse, surfaces broke up into shattered concrete, dirt and mud and still buses and trucks came towards us with nowhere to pass, the lane was so narrow. People were mostly driving carefully, they honked as they approached a bend and generally waited for somewhere to pass. The roads up here dropped hundreds of metres straight down and everyone seemed to respect the obvious dangers.

We rounded a corner and saw what Marcin had been itching to find. A view of the mountain ranges. There they were, grey and murky with unmistakable snow covered peaks pointing jaggedly into the cloudless blue sky like the teeth of a predator. It was a striking sight and the temperature dropped sharply as we stopped to take pictures. We left to carry on for more views and a truck was coming the other way, being driven carelessly. Marcin had no choice but to try and pass on the opposite side as our was cut off and the Enfield skidded towards the precipice. It caught only a few inches from the edge. No harm done but I wouldn’t like to be the person who has to wash his pants tomorrow.

We carried on, the cold got worse until the shadow lifted and then it was warm again. We stopped a few times and everywhere you looked was still more of this incredible green mountain scene. At one point a huge bird of prey swam majestically through the air, barely moving its wings, just gliding on the warm breeze.

It was a great day and a beautiful place to go and see. Unfortunately the roads here are so poor that we had to see it twice, we turned round and came back the same way. There was a small dotted line on the map indicating a road but it was little more than a path through the trees and our bikes wouldn’t have managed 50 miles of that. If we had stayed longer it would have been a great camping trip but my little Chinese enduro would have shaken itself apart and forced my spine up through skull on every bump. The Enfield would have just laughed and spluttered to a halt.

The ride back was still great, we stopped for more pictures along the way until eventually we made it back to the little town at the edge of the city. From there we battled our way against the traffic until we managed to find our way back to the hotel.

Once there we dropped the bikes back. I told the dealer about the fuel and he laughed. I told him I would keep the keys until he could find the money to buy them back from me. I believe it was a genuine oversight but I’m not letting him get away with it if it wasn’t.

So tonight we’re hitting a few bars and saying goodbye to Nepal. For me this is the end of the trip. Thailand is my final destination and tomorrow I’ll be there with my bike. I will ride with Marcin to the border but it’s no longer my journey, it’s just to wave him off.

I have to say, Nepal has been the best country of the trip. Iran was nice and the people were great and it was brilliant to see Pakistan, Serbia and spend some time in Poland again but Nepal has trumped them all with its incredible scenery.
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Comments

Coal on

The grooves cut into the hills sound like rice paddies. I can see some in one of the pictures. Don't know how the seasons work there, but in these parts the paddies fill up with water in late spring (farmer controlled irrigation) so you end up with beautiful patchworks of layered sky mirrors. Always enjoy looking at them close up from a train window at that time of the year.

jtw000
jtw000 on

That sounds about right. The most impressive thing is that it's done by hand, the mountain is completely resculpted by people working with hand-tools. Amazing. In London you can't even get people out of bed to get to work on time but here they can achieve this. We spoke with a local last night, it was a bit of both, to trap water and to make it possible to garden here on a near vertical surface.
We got the guy from the export office drunk , he was much more interesting drunk!

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